Eleven police officers from the Nampa Police Department were recently trained as phlebotomists, which will allow them to draw blood from suspected drunk drivers who refuse to take a breath test.
“We can’t force someone to give us a breath test, obviously,” Nampa Police Sgt. Jamie Burns told the Idaho Press-Tribune. “We can’t squeeze their stomach and force air out of their lungs and make them give us a breath sample.”
However, the department can hold someone down with as many people as necessary and stick their arm with a needle.
The national average of drivers who refused to take a breath test in 2005 was 22 percent, according to a survey conducted that year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, compared to 20 percent of Idaho drivers, according to the same survey.
The department decided having officers trained to draw blood themselves was a far better alternative than how the department had been conducting business in the past: with the use of the fire department’s on-call paramedics or a trip to a local hospital. The department was not charged for either option, but thought that they used too much officer time to complete and allowed for the blood level to drop with the delay of waiting for a medic or driving to a hospital.
The 11 officers were trained at the College of Western Idaho. Assuming the officers completed the school’s phlebotomy program, the officers received 64 hours of classroom instruction and a week’s worth of clinical experience at a cost of $1,600 each, or $17,600 total, to tax payers, in addition to the pay the officers likely received for the 1,144 man hours required to complete the course. The program is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A similar program was started in 1995 in Arizona. This PDF offers a complete history of that program and how it’s being used there today. It appears that a pilot program for Nampa Police Department’s program started in 2009.
Police have drawn 118 blood samples since 2009. Sixty-one of those were drawn without warrants, but the department now relies on securing a warrant before drawing blood, due to reliance on Missouri v. McNeely, a case decided in 2013 where the Supreme Court of the United States held that the dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream did not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.
A Canyon County judge and prosecutor remain on-call and the judge can sign the warrant and read it to the suspect over the phone onsite.
The officers are required to complete 24 blood draws and attend two training courses each year at CWI to recertify their training.